Wednesday, November 20, 2002                                                                                       View Comments

To: Dave VanEllen, Webmaster of Ex-Christian

Dave,

I found your testimony very well written, carefully thought out and genuinely persuasive. Not knowing the best way to communicate with you or your site I have attached a pdf document. The first page is a response to your testimony, the second page an essay inspired by one of your contributing members.

Taking the time to respond to you has been well worth the effort to me personally, and I hope you find my thoughts worth your while to read. I will continue to enjoy your site - your articles reflect a mind I truly respect.

Best Regards.

David Hooten

below is the pdf file's text reproduced without editing

Your testimony resonates with those who, like you and I, have sorted through their own faith fallacies. Those of us who have actually wrestled with the problems you’ve described so well have no difficulty authenticating what you have written. Your transparency gives you credibility, but your capacity to articulate true experience is what gives your message its persuasiveness.

Some of what I write may have a similar affect with your posting contributors, perhaps less persuasively considering the conclusions I have drawn. My essay is certainly different from any I’ve seen posted here, but like yours it touches nerves that make it a bit unpopular in Christian circles. My own past struggles with faith were not caused by my religious bent, nor from hypocrisy in the church (nor my own for that matter). I was never a victim of coercion. These conditions simply complicated my confusion. Why did I struggle? I had faith in a belief – in short, God was not real to me like trees are real.

What does it mean to have faith in belief? I had no first hand knowledge of God objective enough to describe, I could however quite proficiently discuss what I imagined about Him. A Christian who relies on belief in God’s presence is an ex-Christian waiting to happen. I always considered myself a true follower of Jesus Christ, and perhaps I was. For 25 years I strove to uphold religious righteousness where my only certainty was clearly failing the standard I held to be God’s. To then be judged again by others (failing just as miserably in some other area of their lives) made me feel ever more pathetic since I rarely saw their hidden struggles – religious
hypocrisy at its finest.

Questioning one’s personal righteousness is normal, perhaps healthy, for any Christian, but many of those with doubts, like mine, question not their walk of faith but their literal awareness of God – very few will freely admit that even to themselves. Here’s the test: How can a person truly know anyone whose reality they struggle with? One can not both know and doubt. That fact was unpleasant, but facing it put an end to my religious complacency. Some “believers” wake up to this same fact to conclude by some authority there is no God to honor – they choose a new faith in atheism.

Trading one faith for belief in another was no solution for me. I continued searching. One thing I did learn through my trouble, I am an intelligent, very rational person and possess more self-awareness than anyone I know. If Scripture was not true and the people who wrote of their experience with God made it all up in their imaginations, then there was no God to fear at all. Having long ago proven to myself that no other religion describes a tenable God – I was fully prepared to become an atheist. If you thought it was difficult to defend Christianity, try proving to yourself atheism is true without relying on anything beyond your own objective experience, your own rational mind and your own senses. You are the only authority on earth who is an expert in what you truly know – rely on that before accepting any claim as your own.

What did I find? First the presence of God is tangible. He is not a kind of energy or a force, He simply is – I have no other words to describe Him. I did not hear a voice, I did not see a vision and I did not feel a touch. The best description I can offer someone seeking God is by allegory. God’s presence filled my mind as the ocean would a water glass. The experience is one of awareness not of sensation, like understanding a book has an author then knowing him by his work. Awareness requires no effort, comes without warning and removes all doubt.

So where does faith come into play? God never expected me to have faith in beliefs, only faith in His covenant.The Bible is clearly a compilation of writing from people who describe in very human terms, truly indescribable experiences with an incomprehensible God. They each add something unique about their own encounters with one Creator who I recognize from my own awareness of Him. Their combined perspectives added to mine reveals a complete promise I know I can trust – and so I do. To honor the only God there is, the only way I can, I follow the best I am able what is written in the one place I find His promises. I feel badly for Christians who struggle to please who they merely believe in because discontent in their secret lives holds misery which they pass on to everyone around them. As for atheists, agnostics and non-Christians I have no argument at all, but I do make an offer. If you ever tire of believing, I can clearly describe how I know.

My essay follows.

Respectfully, David Hooten

Testimony of a Man Like Me

“Earnestly seek truth, Learn to live truth, then Discover truth as your life-long journey.” [ - David K Hooten 1997]

“I was once a true believer…” begins the cynical testimony of a man who caught my attention with words from my past. He dismissed his “faith” for the fallacy it was, and turned his confidence inward putting faith in himself. As a child I put my faith in something he never found – had our belief been in the same fallacy our testimonies would have ended in one accord.

Many “religious” never discover the god of their faith because God is not in what they chose to believe. One may find comfort in “believing” yet never have their god confront them. Sincerely believing what is not true is the trap religion offers when the god it serves is less than the one who is there. Without truth behind one’s faith, belief is not worth holding.

Reading my journal, written through my darkest season, you would find an arrogant man who alone was rightminded in a world of wanderers. Having never kept a journal before, and never written another since, I captured three years from the mind of a stranger who just happens to be me. It is unnerving to watch the god of my own making destroyed by my maker - God.

My childhood faith was in its innocence true, my fortune or my destiny? Perhaps both. I grew up to righteous teaching from godly instructors with honest failings. I spoke to God as my friend in prayer, with commitment to this Jesus more real in my eight year old mind than it could ever have been once my innocence had died. And die my innocence did.

Materialism in every sense the god of our natural world seduces the soul with his veils of honesty, hiding lies in folds of truth. Christianity tinted with legalism betrays itself as a contest between the wills of men, forsaking service to the will of God. Evangelists of science spoke of knowledge and of myth, while Elders answered questions with compromise and drift. Rationalizing my doubts became as autonomic as breathing, while maintaining faithfulness to Christ an unrelenting struggle. Hypocrisy consumed my faith like a cancer until the shell of my soul was laid bare. If I was still a Christian then, God alone could tell.

Being right for a moment makes no one righteous – I wish I had considered that when I let my love betrayed move from hurt to my unmaking. Nineteen years is much too young to marry, and four years of marriage too soon to let it die. I created my own dilemma, a commitment to the God I would not feel in a relationship of pain I knew was real. To divorce a deacon’s daughter can leave a Christian quite alone. Impressions can convict the guiltless.

Disappointment, rejection, mistrust, doubt – there are many formulas for unmaking the mind of a man, creating a new person who looks at life only through a cynic’s eyes. There is little room in the heart of a man consumed with indignation, much less room for Comfort’s motion buried deep within. For fifteen years I remained secure behind walls of self-control. I let no one close enough to harm me, and none to help me heal. My second wife was no exception, much loved on my terms and in my way. Ten years is too long for a human being to be loved like this, as my wakeup call arrived in the hollowness of her eyes. What the of loss of our child, the waste of our dreams and the death of our brother did not move, the tears of God broke through. Divorce does not just happen to anyone, not to a Christian, not twice. What had I become?

Absolutely alone, but for a presence waiting patiently within. In the year that followed, my faith was reduced to an illusion that God was only as real as my inventive mind could imagine, and the Bible a creative ploy by persuasive men bent on controlling the feeble minded. In his mercy God granted me my disrespect while I minimized the Spirit and criticized his Son. I was bared open with sincerity for the first time since an eight year old boy repented for his failings and asked his savior in. Jesus honored His promise to the pureness of faith in that small child, and in me by his word He will remain.

My journey returned me to the place where I’d begun, humbled before my God’s undeniable presence. What plagued me with confusion is buried with my past, leaving room to fill my soul with what truth alone can bring. Faith is unshakeable only when you have absolute confidence in its truth. Mine moves no more.

Rev 3:19-20 19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. (NIV)

Tuesday, November 19, 2002                                                                                       View Comments

Nihilist

Dear Sir,

i just happened to stumbble onto your site via your livejournal. you see, im in a band called nihilist and i was just looking to see who all had "nihilist" as a intrest. well... your beliefs are interesting. i dont agree with them, i mean, im a messiah jew, meaning that i think that Yeshua is the Messiah, but i was just wondering....

what could you say was the big turning point for you in your faith? im just wondering cause everyone in my band doesn't know why they dont have it anymore (faith in the lord), im the only one that does have it, but id like to know from someone who is as educated as you are.

im not trying to pick a fight or anything, id just like to have a nice chat via email.

thanks man!

deric


Hello there Deric,

While I have no problem chatting with people about nearly anything, I did spend some time to write out my whole testimony from conversion to deconversion. If you are interested you can read it HERE

BTW I too am a former professional musician, jazz musician. I spent 20 years touring with Air Force Bands around the world. Music rules!

Dave VanAllen
webmaster of http://exchristian.net

Thank you for your site

I was raised in a fundamentalist baptist home in which there was room for the love of god but not for the love of anybody else, including the children. I never heard the phrase "I love you" in the house I grew up in, but there were 3 services a week filled with "God loves us and we love him". There was money for the missionaries but not for better food, or shoes, or college. They did not speak to us, hug us, or spend any time with us. Their only social life was through the church.

My father is a deacon in the church. My mother was the church secretary until she retired (she was also the church pianist). My parents held services in the local "mission" and at the various convalescent home. They have no idea what it did to me to grow up in an atmosphere centered on "sin, guilt and death", and they would never understand it. Their world view is centered on their cult. I do not know what hurt them with they were children, but I wish that they had chosen another way to deal with it.

The minister was a self hating booze hound who substituted an addiction to religion for his addiction to alcohol. He ranted and raved against communists and unionists and feminists and homosexuals and those obsessed with sex and drugs. Sunday after Sunday he stood up there with his facing turning red and showers of spit flew out over the podium. This man was telling an enthralled audience all about the God of love who tortured people who would not do as they were told, like a gigantic abusive parent in the sky. Telling children, who are in the process of defining their reality a load of hateful and frightening stories about an all powerful being who wanted to torture them for all eternity because of the sin nature they were born with causes a huge amount of emotional damage to them. It
is brainwashing and it is emotional abuse.

I do not think that it is right for adults to take children to any religious indoctrination meeting, which is what a fundamentalist church service, or a children's church, or a bible school for kids really is. The goal of the "conversion experience" (which is really well documented) is to drive the audience into a state of emotional despair - a nervous breakdown of sorts - and then to tell them that the only way to stop the pain is to join the cult. With children the effect is even more profound. They are still forming their world view. They have no defenses. They have no "past experiences" or "old life" to conflict with the preachers message of self hate. All they know is that "they are bad"..."so bad they deserved to burn forever". It leaves children is a state of complete despair.

By the time I was 9 I was suicidal, playing "hanging" games in the playground across the street with real rope, and drawing extremely disturbing things. I wanted to be dead. I hated my life. I though that everybody hated me, that I was unlovable (like the preacher said every service), and that I deserved to go to hell. Nobody noticed that I no longer had friends and that I could not sleep and that my health was failing.

There is a lot more to my story, but I'd like to summarize the rest of it (too late to make this long story short).

I went though most of my life suicidal, alone in my room with no friends and no girl friends after grade school. After high school I jumped from one kind of escapist group to another (mostly forms of SF and fantasy fandom) after I left the church. It took me ages to figure out that I was raised in a totalitarian cult.

When adults choose any religion that tries to define reality, and drag their children along, they are exposing those young and forming minds of their children to dogma. Dogma that contradicts reality. It gets the kids used to accepting things that conflict with what they see. If gets them used to the idea that they should go through life being told what to think.

Ken Linder